Down that memory lane...
Most everyone has traumatic memories embedded in their brains. Unfortunately, it is part of life and there is just no way around it, especially if these traumatic experiences are from your childhood. I know I am not alone. The sooner you realize this the sooner you can start to accept life as is and you can begin the proper healing process. Some have bad memories of being bullied, hurtful accidents, loss of a loved one, natural disasters, rape, violent parent(s), violent husband/wife, hospitalization, different types of assault, leaving your home because of war. As awful as they sound, experiences like these are more common than you think.
If you could, would you erase these traumatic experiences from your memories? Most likely you would say yes, and honestly me too. I would love to erase bad memories associated with my burns and scars. All those awful names I have been called at school playgrounds. Seriously, kids were so mean. And depending on the person you are, and how you deal with negativity in general it can haunt you all the way to your adult life, unless you take control of your thinking.
What I wanted to share with you, especially today April 13th, on the day my traumatic event took place 34 years ago, is how I healed and got past one of my traumatic events. Before I get into where I am going with this, let me mention little fact about me, I enjoy reading and watching anything about neuroscience. Our brain and its capability is just fascinating to me. It’s amazing how much we don’t know. Recently I read Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says, “Your brain was wired in such a way when it evolved, it was primed to learn quickly from bad experiences but not so much from the good one. It’s an ancient survival mechanism that turned the brain into Velcro for the negative, but Teflon for the positive.”
If you follow neuroscience field and new findings, one of the things neuroscientist are learning is even though our brains are great at recording negative memories, they are not permanently embedded into the brain, as we thought. My interpretation of this is, we might not always have the way to control how a bad memory affects us but we can choose to add a more positive spin to our memories, if not completely replace it. In other words, whenever we recall a memory that is our chance of modifying it.
Here is how I created a positive spin to my traumatic event:
First, I’ve chosen to RECALL it to my best ability: my best source of this was my mother. I spent hours talking to her; going over how it happened, specific details like weather, time of the day, how it affected my entire family. I even asked her the type of food she would bring me to the hospital. Her feelings at the time, etc. I really wanted to try and create mental picture of the event, since I was only six months old.
Next, I’ve chosen to try and RE-LIVE IT: No, I did not pour hot pot of coffee on myself. Haha! My way of doing this was to visit the hospital as well as school playgrounds that I dreaded going to so much. Last August I flew to Bosnia, rented a car and took myself around these places. And I even spoke to hospital staff in Croatia about pulling my hospital inpatient records. My hopes of obtaining old records were very low especially since this region has been a war zone in the 90’s and my time at the hospital was over 30 years ago. I still filled out the request form and paid the postage fee. Even if I received a letter informing me that they haven’t found anything I would have been okay with that. Month has passed since my return from Bosnia when a big dark yellow envelope got delivered to my address!!! And there they were, doctors and nurses’ notes of taking care of little six-month-old burned baby girl. I can’t even describe the feeling when I was carefully looking through these pages. I know you won't be able to understand what it says in the pictures below, it is describing the condition I was in when I was brought to the hospital: bad breathing, unconcious, chronic cramps etc. I was slightly in shock that I could get something from so long ago and from a war-torn country. And the good that it brought to me was equally shocking.
Once I absorbed it all the next step was to ENRICH IT: some questions you may not be able to answer and that’s okay. Acceptance of not having all the answers is also part of the process. Work with what you have. I worked on enriching my experience by modifying the negative with the positive. I can’t control what those kids called me back in the day, but I can control what I do with it today. It was good to see facts behind my accident, especially medical facts, reading this gave me so much more strength and courage. I am so thankful I am here today. We can create our own personal meaning behind it all. If you choose to accept it with help of your religion and beliefs or any other symbolic way, do so. Whatever it takes to get you to say, “I am bigger than what happened to me.” Also, choosing to enrich lives of others by sharing your story and giving support might just give you the comfort you need.